Summary: Part two of this series focuses on Paul confronting Peter's hypocrisy pertaining to their fellowshipping with the Gentile Christians.
An Elitist Mentality Part 2
Scripture: Galatians 2:1-16
This is part two of my series “An Elitist Mentality. If you recall from last week, I shared with you that an elitist is “a person or class of persons considered superior by others or by themselves, as in intellect, talent, power, wealth, or position in society.” I asked you to focus on that part of the definition “considered superior by themselves” as I took you through the example from Mark the 9th chapter. In that story, the disciples after hearing of Jesus upcoming death and His Kingdom that would follow had a discussion about which of them would be the greatest in Jesus’ kingdom. When Jesus’ confronted them about that discussion and taught them the appropriate way to live a life deserving of a reward, John was convicted in his spirit and confessed to something the disciples had done without Jesus’ knowledge. The disciples had confronted a man who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name and forbid him. Their reason was because the man was not “following us.” The man was not a recognized follower of Jesus and according to the disciples, a follower of them. Jesus corrected their elitist behavior by instructing them in the principle that a man doing works in His name could not later speak against Him. In other words, the man doing the works was a follower of Him even though he might not have been recognized as such. I asked you to consider how we want people to follow us (our rules, ways of worship, etc.) versus truly following Christ with their hearts. This morning I want to share a story with you that happened years later where this elitist mentality once again raised its ugly head. Turn with me to Galatians chapter two.
This example reminded me of a story that Dea. Fulks shared with us during Bible study a couple of week ago. We were having a discussion about speaking in tongues and if that was “the” defining point of someone being saved. Some of you may recall that there are those who believe that if you do not speak in tongues you cannot be truly saved. Again, the speaking in tongues has become another way we exhibit an elitist mentality when comparing our “more spiritual” experiences with others who have not had them. In the story we are about to read there were Pharisees who had become Christians who felt that the Gentile converts were beneath them. This was not a situation where the apostles felt they were elite, but one where Peter gave in to the elitist mentality of others. He allowed others to negatively influence his actions. In order to understand Paul’s response to Peter I want to share with you Peter’s testimony from the book of Acts.
In Acts chapter eleven Peter was accused of eating with the Gentiles, those who were uncircumcised. Peter shared with his accusers how he had been in Joppa and received a vision from the Lord about eating unclean meat. Peter states that he refused upon which the Lord told him what He had made clean Peter were not to call unclean. The Lord was preparing Peter to go and minister to Simon who was a Gentile. Peter explained that when he ministered to Simon and his family they were all saved and the Holy Spirit fell upon them. When his accusers heard that the Gentiles had received the same gift as them they backed down and praised God. Later in chapter fifteen of Acts, some Pharisees who had become Christians began to teach the Gentiles that in order to be truly saved they had to be circumcised according to the Law of Moses and only after could Jewish Christians fellowship with them. There was a great argument that arose between them which led to Paul and Barnabas going to Jerusalem to get a decision from the apostles and elders on the issue. During the debate, Peter once again explained what the Lord had told him in his vision that basically all men were equal who accepted Christ. The council’s decision was twofold. First they decided that circumcision was not a requirement for salvation and second as it related to the two groups fellowshipping together, that the Gentiles should refrain from certain foods and sexual sins and thus would be able to fellowship without restrictions with all Jewish Christians. This was the decision from the council that was put into place with the full testimony and support of Peter. Now turn to Galatians chapter two and we will begin at verse one.
“Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also. It was because of a revelation that I went up; and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain. But not even Titus, who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage. But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you. But from those who were of high reputation (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality) well, those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me. But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised (for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles), and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. They only asked us to remember the poor--the very thing I also was eager to do. But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, ‘If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?’ We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles; nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.” (Galatians 2:1-16)